When is healing with yoga not enough?
She says this: “Many times in the Ashtanga practice, the advice with some sort of misalignment is to correct the physical imbalance via the practice. I myself am totally a believer in this, but I wonder where the line is between seeking a physical therapist and using the practice to correct the body.
I ask because I myself came into practice with the right leg out of whack. Pronation in the foot was causing knee pain, which eventually subsided but turned into hip tension. Now in drop backs I am also experiencing some tension in the low back, which I am assuming is SI related.
When I first started practicing, I was seeing a chiropractor to correct some of the issues. Ultimately though, I wasn’t comfortable with his approach to the body or the fact that his recommendation for everything was to stop practicing!
I am very gentle and patient with the parts of my body that have more tension, but I sometimes wonder if that is enough to avoid injury?”
Yoga has health and wellness benefits
One of the most common reasons that people come to yoga, and one of the most common benefits reported, is healing an issue in the body. We ask a lot of our bodies everyday, whether we do something more physical for our work like landscaping or construction, or whether we spend our day in front of the computer. Yoga can definitely help ameliorate many of the patterns that we acquire from our work, sports, and other activities, and just generally help us feel better in our body.
But, yoga is not a cure-all. There is also not just “one” yoga practice and not all yoga practice is focused on the goal of physical therapy or even physical health and wellness. Yoga is a broad suite of tools with many applications. There are many situations where yoga is either not the right tool, or is not sufficient as the only tool, to address an issue that we’re having in our body. So, what factors should we consider when deciding when to seek outside advice?
Most generally we could say that it’s time to seek outside support when you’ve hit the end of your own knowledge and when the body issue of concern isn’t improving. That said, let’s walk through some specific ways of thinking through what you’re experiencing with the goal to help you determine whether it’s time for some outside suggestions.
What kind of problem is it?
If we’re talking about a short-term general muscle soreness kind of issue, then yoga may be able to contribute to helping stretch and hydrate tissues. The kind of muscle soreness we’re talking about here is when muscles feel sore after an intense bout of sport or other activity, for example, or when your muscles feel sore because you are ramping up or training more intensely for a sport or event. If the muscle soreness has a dull, achy feel and is felt throughout the muscle, then it’s likely that yoga may contribute to helping, but other therapies may also help.
If, however, we’re talking about a sharp or nervy kind of pain, particularly if it’s happening outside of yoga, then you could probably benefit from an additional assessment from an outside medical professional. Similarly, if the body issue is a chronic issue that has been bothering you for a long time or a recent acute issue, such as an accident or non-yoga-related injury, then yoga may be one tool that supports your healing process, but it’s likely that you might also benefit from an outside assessment of the issue. An appropriate yoga practice can contribute to reduced pain from some chronic issues such as recurring plantar fasciitis, shin splints, non-specific knee/shoulder/low back/neck pain, but these issues may also benefit from other therapies. A thorough assessment from the right wellness professional can help you decide which tools best fit your situation.
When does the problem occur?
If the muscle soreness or other pain/irritation/discomfort that you’re experiencing is isolated to yoga and not experienced at other times during the day or during other activities, then it could probably be addressed by modifying or changing the yoga that you’re doing. Does the soreness or irritation only show up in certain postures or types of postures? Then it’s likely pointing to a need to modify or change something about how you approach those postures in your body.
If the issue is something coming from outside of yoga, especially if the pain or body issue is one that occurs all the time or is interfering with work or activities you do regularly, then you could probably benefit from an assessment from a wellness professional.
Does it feel better, worse, or the same when you do yoga?
If the body issue is feeling better when you do yoga, then you have kinesthetic feedback from your own body that the yoga is helping. Body issues that feel worse during yoga or don’t feel better when doing yoga could at a minimum benefit from changing how you are practicing yoga and could also probably benefit from an assessment from a wellness professional.
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David summarizes research which evaluates physical effort needed to do common standing yoga postures and how that effort compares to walking.